Mar 18, 2015
Your Grandfather's Beefcake: Circus Strongmen
Those few who developed muscular physiques found themselves in demand in carnivals and circuses as 'strong men," celebrated for their raw strength rather than for their size and symmetry.
But they certainly provided an erotic thrill. Contemporary accounts often praise their masculine beauty.
The most famous of the strongmen was Apollon (the Greek god Apollo), born as Louis Uni (1862-1928), who joined the circus at the age of 14 and eventually became a headliner, appearing in music halls throughout Europe. His act involved such feats as bending the iron bars of a cage, lifting 300-pound train wheels over his head, and holding two cars back with chains.
Interestingly, he was 6'1" with a 48 inch chest and 15 inch biceps.
At my peak condition, I had a 51 inch chest and 17 inch biceps, and I was nowhere near "The Strong Man of the Age." Not even "The Strong Man of the Hollywood Spa.
Not bad for someone who weighted 160 pounds. Schwarzenegger, who weighed 235 pounds, just managed a 298 pound clean-and-jerk.
He wrote an early weight-training manual, Modern Weight Lifting; and How to Gain Strength.
Later he moved to New York and Attila Studio, which trained athletes, bodybuilders, stuntmen, and actors, among them Zero Mostel, Montgomery Clift, Ben Gazzara, David Carradine, Joel Grey, and Karl Malden.
See also: Circus World